Climate activists in their own words: Conceição Amorim

Climate change devastates nature and causes injustice and human suffering in far too many parts of the world. Activist Conceição Amorim sees it in her city Imperatriz, at the edge of the Amazon rainforest. There, she has been advocating for human rights for over forty years. Currently, she coordinates the Padre Josimo Center for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights. We talked to her about how the climate crisis is affecting Imperatriz and what the Center is doing about it.

Destruction in the Amazon

“Imperatriz is located in the Brazilian state of Maranhão at the entrance to the Amazon rainforest. It’s a popular target for mining, illegal logging, big agriculture and livestock farming. All of which cause deforestation. People come here to seek their fortune at the expense of nature. The people of Imperatriz are suffering as a result.”

Garbage and pesticides pollute the water, which in turn contaminates the fish living in it and crops irrigated by it. Then because of climate change, we are experiencing torrential rains that flood entire neighborhoods and destroy people’s homes.”

The climate crisis hits women harder

“This leads to inequality,” says Conceição. “Women are hit harder by these problems. It’s the women who stay at home to make sure their belongings and families stay safe during floods. This causes stress and leads to extreme fatigue and mental health problems. I don’t go out for fun anymore. I’m too scared. We never know when the next flood will happen.”

Conceição is climate activist in Brazil

Court cases and art festivals

“The Padre Josimo Center builds legal cases against polluters and puts pressure on the government to draw up environmental legislation. Right now we’re fighting a plan to create a new garbage dump close to the city.

“We also like to use art to make our points. Think of festivals and music performances. And we use painting and pottery classes to introduce children and adolescents to things like nature conservation and climate justice. Art lets us talk about complex climate issues in a simpler and less emotionally draining way, while reaching and involving more people.”

“Support from Hivos’ Voices for Just Climate Action program has helped us set up lots of these playful, creative, and informative activities. But the most important achievement so far has been getting other organizations and institutions to participate in them. Likewise, working with the organizations Hivos introduced us to has linked us to a larger network of like-minded organizations and activists. This makes us more effective.”